Last year’s Student Assembly election had 18 complaints, four sanctions and three appeals. Besides some small technical issues with eBallot, the service used for electronic voting, this year’s SA elections came and went with little incident.
Votenet, of which eBallot is a branch, is the voting software used by the SA. In the past, there have been problems with ballots disappearing in spam folders. This year some students studying abroad complained of not receiving ballots, and some students on campus received non-working codes.
Discrepancies in the email lists provided by the College of William and Mary Student Affairs office, which are used to send out ballots, were a potential explanation offered by the Chair of Election Commission T.J. O’Sullivan ’13 as to why some students failed to receive their ballots.
“On [the College’s] website the student body is listed as 8258, and I received emails for 8,184. I assumed the difference was due to people leaving during the year for medical or personal reasons,” O’Sullivan said. “But I asked for every student’s email, including those abroad, and I assume what they gave me was correct.”
O’Sullivan pointed out that while all enrolled students should have received a ballot, the Elections Commission invited students to vote manually.
“Some people emailed us, and if they contacted us, we were sure to count their vote,” O’Sullivan said.
Despite a small number of students not receiving ballots, O’Sullivan said he feels eBallot is the best method of conducting the election, citing the reduced chance of voter fraud, human counting error and the increased convenience of email delivery.
SA President Curt Mills ’13 agreed eBallot should continue being used in future elections.
“Trying to create an election service in house would demand a lot of resources,” Mills said. “I think it’s more important to get the work of the student government done than worry about some small [issues] with the third party service.”
SA President-elect Chase Koontz ’14 said he plans to research alternative services in the next few months.
“From what I’ve heard it seems [eBallot] is a good service in terms of price and what they offer,” Koontz said. “But we will be looking into other services before the freshman elections in the fall.”
Mills argued that, by creating an impartial Elections Commission and by having a smaller pool of candidates in this year’s election, it was more professional overall. Mills also noted the lack of candidate misconduct cases handled by the SA Review Board.
“Last year, I think a lot of the problems they had were with the Elections Commission they appointed,” Mills said. “This [year] I thought we had an Elections Commission that was very competent and up to the task, which made it less likely people would infringe on the code.”
Koontz said, during his term, he aims to appoint an Elections Commission that is both unbiased and knowledgeable of SA code.